15/16 Film Schedule
Slow West – 14th September 2015
Monday 14th September, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 26th June 2015 (cert 15)
Directed By: John Maclean
Written By: John Maclean
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Caren Pistorius
A work of rare purity, directness and concision’ – Evening Standard
‘A lyrical ode to love’ – The Observer
**** – The Independent
Slow West is the directorial debut of John Maclean, previously a musician who’s best known for being a member of The Beta Band from 1997 to 2004. Although the band were critically acclaimed probably more so than being commercially successful Maclean was never entirely happy, “I struggled sometimes in the studio,” he admits, “Because I just didn’t have the ear for it. I felt a lot more comfortable with the videos.”
Having always been interested in cinema, he directed the band’s music videos, approaching them as if they were short films and it was those videos that brought him to the attention of Michael Fassbender, star of tonight’s film, who suggested working together. They agreed to make a short film which became Man on a Motorcycle, shot on a Nokia camera phone, the second, Pitch Black Heist, won a Bafta. After that they decided to make a feature film so Maclean went away to write the script.
Maclean admits that a Western was perhaps an unusual choice for a first film but he approaches the genre from a fresh perspective, populating the story with primarily European characters. “When I was touring America with The Beta Band”, he said, “People would often tell me their great-grandfather was Scottish or Irish, and I’d read a lot about Scottish people travelling to America in the 1800s. But when you watch an old western, nearly everyone’s American. So when I came to write my first feature film, I liked the idea of making a western from a European perspective, full of migrants from over here. I wanted to address who the settlers and migrants were and how people were moving to the land at the time.”
So why the title Slow West? “It wasn’t until I got to the end of the film that I realised people might think it’s a slow film,” Maclean explains, “Westerns are normally all about the action, pulling your guns out as quickly as possible.But then again, I think Transformers is a slow film. There’s constant action but it’s not going anywhere. And then some films that people say are slow, I think are the perfect pace. It gives people the time to actually contemplate what they are watching. And that’s what many are fearfully afraid of.”
Citing Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs Miller and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man as inspirations, two films that have their own distinct take on the western was he trying to further subvert the genre? “No, it’s just a different take on something that has always been presented as distinctly American. In reality, it wasn’t characters like Clint Eastwood roaming around in the Wild West. Cowboys were mostly German.” The result is something he describes as a “dreamlike Western.” We shall see….
Mostly all of Monday night’s audience enjoyed the season opener ‘Slow West’. ‘What a film!’, ‘Excellent!’, ‘Stunningly brilliant’, ‘Enjoyed (it) immensely’ were some of the opinions expressed. Members enjoyed the ‘Twist and turns’ and some thought it ‘Funny too’. The film was ‘Beautifully photographed’ and the cinematography was described as ‘Wonderful’ as were the ‘Great locations’ and viewers ‘Loved (the) Mountain scenery.’
The film wasn’t for everyone though: it was ‘Too violent’ in a couple of instances and had a ‘Somewhat futile plot’ according to one. ‘Slightly pretentious’ wrote another continuing: ‘Quite derivative’, with its ‘Sam Peckinpah-type violent finale’. Many though found it ‘Totally involving,’ enjoying the slower pace with its ‘Different slant’ on the genre calling it an ‘Experience’ and ‘Well worth watching’ even though in one instance it ‘Would not have been my first choice’. ‘I’m laughing and don’t know why’, commented one member. It must have been the washing line!
Au revoir les enfants – 12th October 2015
Monday 12th October, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 1987
Directed By: Louis Malle
Written By: Louis Malle
Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö and Francine Racette
‘Every scene is masterful’ – Guardian
**** – Empire
‘Spellbinding’ – Readers Digest
‘Directed with understated grace’ – Time Out
The film’s director Louis Malle was born into a wealthy industrialist family in Nord in France which is close to the border with Belgium and he initially studied political science at Sciences Po before turning to Film Studies.
His first job was as the co-director and cameraman to Jacques Cousteau on the Oscar and Palme d’Or-winning documentary The Silent World which was shot over the course of two years and is noted as one of the first films to use underwater cinematography to show the ocean depths in colour.
The film later faced criticism for environmental damage done during the filmmaking. In one scene, the crew of the Calypso, the ship on which Costeau was living whilst filming killed a school of sharks that were drawn to the carcass of a baby whale which itself had been mortally injured by the crew albeit accidentally. In another incident Cousteau used dynamite near a coral reef in order to make a more complete census of the marine life in its vicinity. He became more environmentally conscious soon after you’ll be pleased to hear.
Although Malle came to the fore in the late 50s/early 60s he was really only on the fringes of the nouvelle vague – or the ‘new wave’ of French filmmakers’ that included Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol who each had a huge effect on the way films were made and thought about. Malle wasn’t as experimental as the others were but did explore characteristics of the movement, including using natural light, and shooting only on location.
He’s possibly best known for the The Lovers starring Jeanne Moreau which caused a fuss especially in America. A showing of the film in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, resulted in a criminal conviction for the theatre manager for the public depiction of obscene material. He appealed and the conviction was overturned but the case is remembered for the famously subjective definition of obscenity by the judge who said, “I know it when I see it.”
Au revoir les enfants is based on events in the childhood of the director who at the age 11 attended a Roman Catholic boarding school and witnessed similar situations to those portrayed here. It took him a long time to bring the story to the screen because the memories involved. The film is critical of the Catholic Church and Malle wasn’t scared to explore the subject of Nazi occupation in France in his films. One of his other films Lacombe, Lucien is according to critic Wheeler Winston Dixon, ‘One of the most effective films about the capitulation of France to the Nazis during World War II, and one of the most controversial, he was willing to suggest that not every member of the French public was a member of the Resistance; that indeed, many were willing accomplices to the Vichy government, and the sting of the film remains to this day.’
The feedback from ‘Au revoir les enfants’ was virtually all positive, the emotional nature of the film and subject brought about many reactions of ‘Brilliant’, Moving’, ‘Powerful’ and ‘Heartbreaking’. This ‘very well made,’ film was ‘Highly emotive of the horrors of occupation’ and was thought to give us ‘Some idea of what France suffered in the war.’ One commentator ‘Wasn’t too sure of the characters in the beginning’ but they ‘felt very moved’ by the end.
There was an opinion that it was ‘Slow at first (but) then gripping’ and for one or two the subtitles went a little too quick. For one viewer it was ‘Not as dramatic as I expected’ but for the vast majority though it was ‘Superb’, ‘Poignant’, and a ‘Beautiful portrayal of childhood friendship.’ There were aspects of the environment that for ‘Anyone who has been to boarding school can identify with’ too. The film was for one ‘As powerful now as when I saw it when it first came out’ and caused one member to call for ‘More Louis Malle please.’
Mistress America – 9th November 2015
Monday 9th November, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 14h August 2015 (cert 15)
Directed By: Noah Baumbach
Written By: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Seth Barrish
‘A bracing, peppery tonic’ – Guardian
**** – Daily Express
‘Perceptive, well-written and frequently funny’ – Independent
Noah Baumbach, the third of four siblings, was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of novelist/film critic Jonathan Baumbach and Village Voice critic Georgia Brown and made his writing and directing debut at the age of 26 with Kicking and Screaming in 1995, a comedy about four young men who graduate from college and refuse to move on with their lives. The positive critical reaction to this meant he was chosen as one of Newsweek’s ‘Ten New Faces of 1996’. He’s worked consistently in the last twenty years directing nine films writing all of them and co-writing a number of other projects including the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and more surprisingly for a filmmaker who sets most of his films in domestic, urban settings, the animation Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.
Previous to Mistress America his 2005 film The Squid and the Whale was his most praised film, a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about his childhood in Brooklyn and the effect of his parents’ divorce on the family in the mid-1980s. It was a sleeper hit and a critical success, earning Baumbach two awards at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and followed it with the 2007 comedy-drama Margot at the Wedding, starring his then wife Jennifer Jason Leigh,
It was during his next project Greenberg he met Greta Gerwig when he cast her and they became both a couple and a writing team soon after. They collaborated on Frances Ha which the club showed in December 2013 and the film was in the main highly praised the ‘real life reflections’ were ‘moving on so many levels’ said one member as the director ‘portrayed his characters as real people and not stereotypes!’ all of which appears to confirm the elements he chooses to explore, “A number of my movies do deal with how you grow as an individual or as a group or a Couple. Can you maintain these relationship as you or they are changing. What is in or out of your control,” he said recently.
The reviews to Mistress America have like Frances Ha and some elements of his earlier work again brought comparisons to Woody Allen to the surface again, The Economist takes these a stage further arguing: ‘Baumbach has come along to show him how it really ought to be done. Mistress America is a crisp, nuanced comedy about ambitious young people finding their way in the city, without the characteristic Allen pitfalls.’
Monday’s film ‘Mistress America’ split opinion a little more than usual. It was enjoyed by the majority but with the occasional reservation, the most enthusiastic branded it as ‘Fun! Witty and lively, ‘Great film!’, ‘Lovely, quirky’, ‘Crazy (and) Refreshing.’ It was ‘Another Baumbach gem’ according to one viewer as another ‘Enjoyed the emotional tensions throughout.’ ‘Shades of Woody Allen’ were witnessed by one alongside the film Desperately Seeking Susan with its ‘1980s aspirations.’
Others found it a ‘Strange film’ and ‘Interestingly different.’ For one writer it was ‘Perceptive on ‘finding yourself’ in the modern world’ but for others some of the dialogue and sound was ‘difficult to follow’ and ‘distorted’ though on the whole the music was thought ‘Funky!’ There was a section who thought it ‘Meandering’, ‘Sweet… but pointless’, ‘Typically American, not much happening’, and for one, ‘Instantly forgettable’ with its ‘Shallow people’.
Most though seem to appreciate the ‘Zany,’ aspects of these ‘Crazy people’ and their lives. There was a former Manhattanite in the audience who testified that “The film was exactly right, it captured life there perfectly, the ambition, the aspiration and the exhaustion. That’s why I left!”
Gemma Bovery – 14th December 2015
Monday 14th December, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 21st August 2015 (cert 15)
Directed By: Anne Fontaine
Written By: Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini and Jason Flemyng
‘Arterton is a joy to watch’ – Guardian
‘Luchini gives a brilliant comic performance’ – Independent
The locations for tonight’s film are largely of Normandy and the French countryside, but some scenes are set in Paris. At the time I started putting this introduction together the news was full of the recent atrocities in Paris. I hope we all find the film less distressing than those recent events. When I knew I was going to be introducing this film I thought I would start my research by reading Gustave Flaubert’s original novel Madam Bovary, so I ordered a copy from the library. The system worked brilliantly, but the book I got was an English text book for students of French literature who had read the book in French. I cannot read or speak French! So back to Plan B
Tonight’s film has got connections to Flaubert & Madam Bovary but only because one of the main characters admires the novelists work, and sees parallels in his novels to those about him in modern life, and perhaps helps moves things along to encourage those parallels. We shall see.
The novel on which tonight’s film is based, rather than Flaubert’s one of nearly 160 years ago, is a parody of the original written by Posy Simmonds who is almost a local, having been born in Caversham. She is not of the famous brewery family from that area, who spell their name differently, but Posy is very well known as a cartoonist, initially for the Sun, then the Times and finally with the Guardian. She is also the author of many children’s books and received an MBE in 2002 for services to the Newspaper industry. Her book on “Fred” was turned into a OSCAR nominated short film Famous Fred in 1996 with Lenny Henry voicing the main character. Tamara Drewe was written for the Guardian between 2005 and 2006, published as a book in 2007 and then adapted as a film in 2010 with Stephen Frears as Director and starring Gemma Arterton who is also in tonight’s film. Gemma Bovery started as a series for the Guardian in the late 1990’s and was published as a novel in 1999.
Anne Fontaine who directed and co-wrote the script of the film comes from Luxembourg . She is a writer and actress, known for Adore in 2013, Coco Before Chanel and Chloe both in 2009. She is married to Philippe Carcassonne, who was Producer for this film as well as for Coco Before Chanel.
The scriptwriter of the film was the award winning Pascal Bonitzer a Parisian who has been writing and acting for more than 40 years.
Fabrice Luchini who plays Martin, is also a Parisian who has been acting as well as writing in French films also for more than 40 years. More recently he has starred in In the House released in 2012, The Women on the 6th Floor in 2010 and Paris in 2008.
Gemma Arterton who plays the title role was born and raised in Gravesend, which I think makes her a Kentish Woman, but her ancestry is very mixed including English, Polish, Jewish, German and Scottish. She is related to the singer-songwriter Eric Goulden. Although both working class her parents encouraged their children to explore their creative abilities. During her teenage years, she was part of the Masquerade and Miskin theater companies, appearing in productions of The Massacre of Civitella and Guiding Star. In 2004, she won an award for Best Supporting Actress, which helped her to win a grant to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Whilst studying at RADA, she landed her first professional role in Capturing Mary followed by St. Trinian’s both in 2007. Her breakthrough role came in 2008, when she appeared in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace in 2008. In 2009, she was the winner of Empire’s Best Newcomer Award and in 2010 she starred in the award winning film Tamara Drewe in the title role.
Jason Flemyng who plays her husband Charlie in the film was born on London. Previously he has been in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Snatch. He is married to the actress Elly Fairman.
Monday’s Gemma Bovery garnered near total praise, only two of the over 30 feedback forms returned had less than a 4 or 5/5 mark. ‘Thoroughly enjoyable’, ‘Excellent!’, ‘Fabulous’ and ‘Great film!’ encompassed many of the responses. It was ‘A very witty film (with) clever parallels’ opined a viewer and there was ‘Fantastic interplay between (the) characters’ wrote another whilst a member agreed with Gemma herself, ”Nothing much happens’ but it was interesting.’ There was a viewer that had studied Flaubert at A-Level and found it ‘An interesting adaptation of sorts of life imitating art imitating life!’
Fabrice Luchini’s facial expressions were enjoyed too, he was ‘Formidable,’ according to one feedback form. People got into the spirit and took the opportunity to record their verdicts in French whether they be French themselves or not, comments such as ‘Charmant’, ‘Cinématographie prime!’ and ‘Très bon!’ demonstrated how clever the film club audience are, as are your committee: It’s a Joyeux Noël to you from all at AFC!
The Lobster – 11th January 2016
Monday 11th January, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 16th October 2015 (cert 15)
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos
Written By: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux
‘Brilliantly funny and thoroughly executed’ – Standard
‘Farrell excels’ – Telegraph
‘Rich and strange’ **** – Independent
Tonight’s film, “The Lobster”, was released in the UK in October 2015. Earlier in the year it had won the Jury Prize, essentially the third level award, at the Cannes Festival. It was shot in the Irish Republic, and in particular at a resort hotel called Parknasilla in the southwest of the country.
This movie can definitely be placed in the black comedy, avant-garde and absurdist categories. It is set in the near future, and at the most basic level it is a satire on modern dating practices, on the modern way of finding an ideal partner, using the internet and so on.
However, it certainly has another side to it. As one critic has summed up the movie, it is “surreal, hilarious…but ultimately quite disturbing”. It certainly has its darker moments.
This surreal and in some ways disturbing nature of “The Lobster” is very much in keeping with its director’s previous feature films, and indeed his creative career as a whole.
The director is Yorgos Lanthinos, who was born in Athens in 1973. He started off in the movie business in a conventional way, making TV commercials and music videos. However, he had also directed a number of “experimental” theatre plays, giving early expression to his avant-garde creative side.
This side to Lanthinos has found fuller expression in his feature films. “The Lobster” is his fifth full length feature as director, but his first in English. In fact he’s now moved to London, partially to ease funding given the parlous economic situation in his home country. However, because of the of the unconventional nature of the director’s previous work, and despite the involvement of some well-known actors, funding for “The Lobster” was not easy to get and had to be cobbled together from sources in five countries.
“The Lobster” is the third of Lanthinos’ movies that he has co-written with fellow Greek Efthymis Filippou. The previous two were “Alps” and “Dogtooth”, and they unsurprisingly divided critical opinion. It will be interesting to see whether the audience feedback on this occasion is similarly divided about “The Lobster”.
The male lead in tonight’s film is Irishman Colin Farrell, who made his debut in the BBC series “Ballykissangel” in 1998. Since then he’s appeared in a host of movies- “The Lobster” is his 37th. Arguably the most successful was “In Bruges” for which he won a Golden Globe award.
Alongside Farrell is Rachael Weisz, who’s been in a similarly long list of films, but who has also worked extensively in the theatre. Her most acclaimed movie role was in the 2005 production “The Constant Gardener”, for which she won an Academy Award.
Joining Farrell and Weisz is French actress Lea Seydoux. She had approached Lanthinos to express an interest in working with him, and her role in “The Lobster” is the outcome of that. She’s an interesting and complex character for a number of reasons, not least her versatility in moving between mainstream English language roles and more esoteric French productions. As an example of the former, she appears in the latest Bond movie “Spectre”.
Finally a word about The Maid in tonight’s film- she’s played by the director’s wife Ariane Labed.
Let’s now see the movie and make our own minds up!
Monday night’s The Lobster brought the most diverse reaction the club has yet received on a film night which was also reflected in the marking, see below.
Comments ranged from ‘Original and brilliant,’ to ‘DID NOT ENJOY AT ALL.. ..DO I COME NEXT TIME?’ That writer along with two other correspondents purposefully placed a 0/5 mark onto the feedback form demonstrating their strong depth of feeling. One member thought that ‘Whoever voted for this should be shot’ whilst others labelled it ‘Bizarre’, ‘Crude and pretentious for the most part’, ‘Gratuitous,’ ‘Grim!,’ whilst another would, ‘Rather have not seen it.’ The introduction before the film referenced that the director often had difficulty funding his films and a couple of members commented that they were not in the least bit surprised.
Across the board the audience thought the film, ‘Weird’, an aspect which enthralled some, ‘Loved it.. Odd.. Great!, ‘Hilarious yet disturbing…. I’m considering my animal choice!’, ‘More like this please,’ and, ‘That was simply horrible! Enjoyed very much…’ recorded some of the audience. There was some ‘Good acting’ as the film was ‘Very astute in its observations on modern love life,’ according to one viewer whilst another saw it as ‘A new take on Lord of the Flies – using sex instead of public order as its theme.’ The film gave one member ‘Plenty to think about,’ as another proclaimed it the ‘Strangest film I have ever seen. A modern 1984.’
Finally, there was one form that came back where the writer mentioned that they were glad that they’d met their partner at work!
36 forms returned, 29 with marks included (38% of total audience). Forms returned with:
- 1 mark: 4
- 2 marks: 6
- 3 marks: 3
- 4 marks: 10
- 5 marks: 6
(.5 marks rounded up)
Average Score: 3.27
Taxi Tehran – 8th February 2016
Monday 8th February, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 30th October 2015 (cert 12A)
Directed By: Jafar Panahi
Written By: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Jafar Panahi
‘Enchanting film-making, *****’ – Evening Standard
‘A joyous ride, 5/5’ – Guardian
‘Gleaming courage’ – FT
Jafar Panahi is an Iranian film director, screenwriter and film editor, commonly identified with the Iranian New Wave film movement. After making short films and working as an assistant director for fellow Iranian Abbas Kiarostami, Panahi achieved international recognition with his feature film debut, The White Balloon (1995). The film won the Caméra d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, the first major award won by an Iranian film at Cannes. He followed that with further prizes around Europe for The Mirror (1997), The Circle (2000) and Offside in 2006.
Quickly recognized as one of the most influential film-makers in Iran his films have often banned in his own country, The Circle was an impassioned criticism of the treatment of women, Crimson Gold from 2003 spotlighted a crisis of masculinity in the nation’s underclass and Offside was prompted by the experience of the director’s daughter, who was refused entrance to a football stadium because of her gender. Having faced several short-term arrests, Panahi was arrested in March 2010 along with his wife, daughter, and 15 friends and later charged with propaganda against the Iranian government and becoming involved in the Green movement who were trying to unseat the president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the following December he was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any films, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media, or from leaving the country except for medical treatment or making the Hajj pilgrimage. Despite this he released another movie called This Is Not a Film, smuggled out of the country on a USB drive in a cake.
This Is Not a Film was made with documentary director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (who was later arrested for his participation), where Panahi obeys the letter of the law, if not quite the spirit. He starts documenting his life in which he wanders around his own apartment, reflecting on the creative and physical restrictions that have been imposed on him and sitting in his book-lined apartment, telling us about the film he would make if he could, he recites dialogue from those scripts and maps fictional landscapes on a Persian rug.
“There is a sense in many films of the Iranian new wave that the real meaning lies in what’s going on in the background,” explains Geoff Andrew, the head of film programming at BFI Southbank, which is planning a retrospective of Panahi’s work. He continues, “That gives a lovely elusiveness to the narrative and pushes the audience to think. But it’s also born out of necessity, in that it’s what Iranian film-makers have to do. They’re not allowed to put a message up front. So they have to scatter seeds to either side and hope that we’re clever enough to pick them up.”
At the Berlin Film Festival last year, where Taxi Tehran won the Golden Bear, the highest prize available, the jury president, Darren Aronofsky, called the film, “a love letter to cinema,” and Dieter Kosslick, the director of the Festival, wrote, “Taxi (Tehran) is a wonderful example for the subversive potential of a great masterpiece.” The film has gone to receive plaudits around the world but it’s clear we shouldn’t underestimate the position Panahi put himself in making the film as Washington Post reviewer Stephanie Merry wrote, ‘He looks like he’s having a wonderful time, but a sordid reality is never far off: Panahi’s films are acts of defiance, and each one could be his last.’
Watching a film like this it’s easy to think that we’re far away from surveillance but some aspects might be closer to home than one might think:
As usual we updated our website to the new film, in this case Taxi Tehran after we played The Lobster. Once I got the say-so from our webmaster I bought a ticket as usual through Paypal to check everything was working. Rather than get than get a confirmation that I’d paid I got a message saying that ‘Your Payment is pending’, it continued, ‘Your payment is temporarily while we review it. Regulations require us to take a closer look at some transactions. We’ll contact you about this in 24 to 72 hours.’
I’d not seen something like that before so I emailed the committee writing that I wasn’t quite sure if it was me or the club who was actually being examined. My immediate thought was I wouldn’t want our members to have to face this/put up with this if it were the club so fortunately another committee member volunteered to put a ticket through. He got the same message. Our webmaster then had a thought, call him cynical, and suggested that the perhaps the word ‘Tehran’ might be causing the trouble! He then changed the information going to Paypal so they just recorded ‘Taxi’ when a transaction was made. Another committee member then put a ticket through to test the theory….. and it worked perfectly. Next day I got an email saying the transaction went through as did the other committee member who received the same message.
So, that confirms it, we’re being watched! All the time! Anyway, I’m still very much looking forward to Taxi T*****.
The club were taken on a ‘fascinating’, ‘enlightening’ and ‘revealing’ trip around Tehran recently which left the vast majority of the audience ‘completely absorbed.’ One writer so enjoyed it they ‘wanted (the journey) to continue.’ Viewers admired this ‘brave enterprise ‘with its ‘challenging conversations’ and the ‘effective exposure’ that it’s ‘obviously difficult to have any other opinion than the state one.’ The audience ‘felt for their [the passengers’] safety’ and that Iran was ‘a really unpleasant place to live’ fully appreciating ‘the atmosphere of being watched all the time.’ A couple of viewers weren’t quite so sure, one ‘lost the plot!’ but they both ‘liked the taxi driver’ nonetheless.
Many thought Panhani ‘very brave’, ‘innovative’ and ‘ingenious’ wondering ‘what could he do with Spielberg’s budget!’ The characters enchanted too, the director himself, the flower lady who was ‘loved’ as were the ladies with the fish whilst the young girl was thought both ‘charming’ and ‘obnoxious’. One member recorded their relief by writing ‘Aren’t we lucky to live here?’ whilst another noticed, a little more tangentially that ‘he never ran out of petrol’, a comment as subtle as those Pahani made perhaps?
Carol – 14th March 2016
Monday 14th March, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
UK Release: 24th November 2015 (cert 15)
Directed By: Todd Haynes
Written By: Phyllis Nagy and Patricia Highsmith
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara & Sarah Paulson
‘Scripted and acted with exquisite restraint’ ***** – Evening Standard
‘A ravishing tour de force’ – Guardian
‘Gorgeous, beguiling’ – FT
Todd Haynes is an American independent film director, screenwriter, and producer and studied semiotics at Brown University. After graduating with a BA in Arts and Semiotics, Haynes moved to New York and became involved in the independent film scene, launching Apparatus Productions, a non-profit organization for the support of independent film.
In 1987, while an MFA student at Bard College, Haynes made a short film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story that sent shockwaves through the independent film world garnering much praise and attention as a talent to watch. The film is an animation which chronicles the life of American pop singer Karen Carpenter using a Barbie doll as the main character. The film examines her struggle with anorexia and bulimia and her resulting chronic weight loss and the doll is gradually whittled away with a knife reducing it to something approaching a skeleton to illustrate this. Haynes failed to obtain proper licensing to use the music of The Carpenters which prompted a lawsuit from Karen’s brother Richard for copyright infringement. Carpenter won his lawsuit, and Superstar was removed from public distribution though it’s sporadically made available on YouTube and other video sharing sites.
When asked where he would suggest someone start with his work he believes Superstar is the one, ‘Because,’ he says ‘in some crazy way it encompasses all those elements in my very first outing. It deals with questions about narrative, the subject, and identity, together with a take on pop culture in a particular historical framework. So that film brings all those concerns of mine into a tight, containable package.’
Subsequently it’s his focus on female led stories that he’s best known for, more specifically portrayals of isolated female figures, Julianne Moore in Safe and Far from Heaven in 1995 and 2002 respectively and the 2011 HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce. These characters are ones whose feelings are often suppressed by the societal restrictions of their time and Haynes communicates this by stripping the stories back to their minimum using a simple, minimalist style which contrasts with the inner turmoil of his characters struggling to maintain the appearance of respectability. He’s apparently pushed this further in Carol by exploring surface and colour as elements of storytelling, a film festival in Poland noted its “delicate and precise exploration of emotion through colour and light,” and that “it seamlessly evokes the period by paying homage to the great photography of the time.”
One of those influences was Saul Leiter. As Haynes said to The Guardian, “He’s known for shooting through windows, for using reflection. His work is impressionistic… …muted overall [but] with flashes of colour.”
Haynes also emphasised that Leiter’s focus on frames, mirrors, and glass was equally influential for the film which often lingers on characters gazing at each other through car windows and camera lenses. And it seems as though thematically Carol shares something with last month’s film, Taxi Tehran, “You see these people functioning,” said Haynes, “where their gestures and their words have a limited range of possibility, and so it forces us to read between what they’re saying and what’s possible… ….the glances separating them, or even linking them at times.”
‘Beautiful’ was the most commonly used word for Carol on Monday, though a few weren’t fully taken with the storyline no-one could deny the ‘Lovely, lingering photography’, how ‘Evocative of the era’ the film was and how ‘Immersive’ it was with its ‘Nice, moody early 50s’ feel. A handful thought it a ‘Bit longwinded’, and a ‘Bit ponderous’, one reviewer felt it a ‘Gloomy film’ and they ‘Didn’t feel sympathy for the main characters’ but no-one gave it below 3 marks out of 5 on the night.
The majority of commentators thought it a ‘Great film!’ and felt it ‘Very moving’, ‘Wonderfully acted’, ‘Poignant’, ‘Languid.. …painful at times!’ as we witnessed ‘The sadness of illegal love’ and watched ‘Therese mature and grow in confidence.’ A writer acknowledged the original novel recording ‘A Highsmith story well told’ as another recognised ‘The pre-film talk really helped me appreciate the photography’. One writer was ‘thankful for the happy ending otherwise they’d be begging for Carol’s gun!’ as the rest of the audience sat back and ‘Loved the music’ whilst according to one member the film brought ‘New depths to the word ‘reflective”.
Grandma – 11th April 2016
Monday 11th April, ODEON Cinema, Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
Directed By: Paul Weitz
Written By: Paul Weitz
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner & Marcia Gay Harden
‘Tomlin is effortlessly brilliant’ – Guardian
‘Funny and absorbing’ – Telegraph
‘A gem of a film’ – Independent
It’s an accepted truism that the best civil wars happen within families. It’s also true that this is a God-send for film-makers. You have, drama, conflict, high emotion and the possibility of reconciliation and a happy ending in the final reel. After all, as Hitchcock remarked, “it’s only a movie.” And so too, in the case of Grandma.
Principal lead actress in this film is Lily Tomlin. After starting out on American television in the early 1970s, she moved into film and received an Academy Award Nomination for her role in the 1975 film, Nashville. Since then she has regularly worked in films and television.
In Grandma, she plays Elle, the Grandma of the title. Once well-known as a literary feminist of the 1960s era she is now a forgotten figure. Her granddaughter, Sage, turns up, pregnant and wanting an abortion but without the money ($630) to pay for it. Broke herself, Elle takes her granddaughter in hand and they approach a number of friends and former lovers for the money.
The film follows their quest of the course of that one day. How it turns out, we discover in the final reel.
Well, once again, that’s enough from me.
Thank you for your kind attention. Let’s all enjoy the film.
Grandma became a part of the family for 90 minutes on Monday and she was welcomed by very nearly all of the audience, ‘Brilliant!’, ‘Most enjoyable’, ‘Humourous’ and ‘Thought provoking’ were some of the immediate reactions. The film was ‘A roller coaster of emotions’ which ‘Challenged stereotypes’ and was at the same time both ‘Gentle and feisty’. Another viewer agreed it was ‘Gentle, despite the swearing!’ as many echoed the sentiment that it was ‘A comic approach to a difficult situation.’
There were a couple of unfavourable comments, one member ‘Did not warm’ to the film as another felt it was ‘Not for me. The ugly side of life.’ In one case, ‘The sentimental music finally won out over the foulmouthing’ but for the vast majority it was a ‘Great combination of pathos and character comedy’ with ‘Lovely Lily!’ winning most of the acting plaudits, ‘Bring back The Telephonist sketch – Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In‘ they continued. Grandma ‘Will rank as one of my all time favourite films’ recorded one as people found it ‘Moving, poignant and relevant!’ with ‘Warmth, laughter and buckets of empathy. Loved it!’
Room – 9th May 2016
Monday 9th May, ODEON Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Screenplay by Emma Donoghue
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen
‘Brie Larson delivers every line to perfection’ – Standard
***** – Guardian
‘Visionary film-making’ – Independent
When I knew we were going to be showing this film I volunteered for the introduction, because from what little I knew about it seemed very like Kafka and as a great fan of Kafka I thought some parallels could be made. Since then I have read the book, checked out some reviews and read up some interviews and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed. When her publisher saw the book initially he thought it would make a great film and although she had no script writing experience Emma Donague thought she would start on a script right away. What’s more she kept ownership of the script and from the reaction in the form of award nominations after the film came out, she’s made a good job of it.
So about the film. Well I am not going to tell you about it, which I understand follows the plot of the book very closely, because that would spoil the experience for you all. This is not a normal film by any standards. It could be described as a fairy story from one perspective but very much Brothers Grimm rather than Disney. The narrator is a young boy who has had a very unusual upbringing and in it he tells how his world is suddenly turned upside down.
Because of his upbringing the Kafka element is very much part of the dialogue, with perception and perspective turned on their heads and seen through hazy mirrors, hands over the eyes and what is inanimate becomes real and friendly.
It is a love story but not a romance. It is a horror story but not in the Hollywood sense of horror. This is real evil and not just the evil in the villain it is about the evil of the real world, when considered from the perspective of the sudden celebrity and their lack of privacy and the baying media who pursue them for their pound of “fame attention”. It offers hope but also despair and then more hope. Again I draw the comparison to Kafka in that the perspective of a young boy with a very unworldly upbringing is totally out of step with the real world he suddenly finds himself in.
Lenny Abrahamson, the Director, has shown remarkable restraint in sticking closely to the original story. Brie Larson won many awards for her portrayal of the mother including the triple of an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA as leading actress and Jacob Tremblay received a couple of awards as well as some nominations for role as Jack.
Some of the critics didn’t like the film as too flat after reading the book, but that I think is one of the problems of reading a book before seeing a film based on a book, which is why I normally prefer to do it the other way round. I don’t expect you will find tonight’s film flat and I don’t think you will find it boring. Funny – definitely not, although there may be humour there for some of us. I have high hopes of it being both thought provoking and full of hidden depths.
Monday’s audience left Room proclaiming the film ‘Brilliant’, ‘Excellent’ and ‘Incredibly moving’, a number found it ‘Very harrowing’ (even though in this instance the viewer had already read the novel) but they were still compelled to add to the near unanimous praise with comments such as ‘Heartbreaking’, ‘Emotional’ and ‘Alarming’ . The ‘Amazing portrayals’ of Ma and Jack were complimented highly, ‘Brilliant acting’, ‘Jack is incredibly inspiring!’ and ‘The plaudits to the actors and director are well deserved’ were amongst many recorded on the forms.
A couple of viewers each found the film ‘Depressing’, one adding it was ‘Well acted but exhausting,’ but the majority were ‘Gripped from start to finish’ and ‘Could feel the claustrophobia’, there were viewers who at times ‘Could hardly breathe’ as they were ‘Turned inside out’ by the tension of the story. This ‘Faithful adaption’ of the novel where ‘Any variation only improved the original’ affected one viewer as they began to feel as though the ‘Cinema was too small!’ A couple of correspondents thought the ending was a touch ‘Schmaltzy’ but most felt it was ‘A refreshing outlook on our world’ and that the film’s “strong” (as Jack would say) was the skillful capture of the ‘Power of a Mother’s love.’
Truth – 13th June 2016
Monday 13th June, ODEON Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
Directed by James Vanderbilt
Written by James Vanderbilt
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss
‘Blanchett is on the form of her life’ – Telegraph
‘A gripping tale’ – FT
Catherine Élise Blanchett was born 14 May 1969 in the Melbourne suburb of Ivanhoe and is the middle of three children and suffered a tragedy when she was ten years old, her father died of a heart attack. It left her mother to raise the family on her own, “As a child, you incorporate those losses, those hurdles, those moments of grief or challenge. I think I developed enormous empathetic connection with my mother,” she said. Blanchett has described herself as being “part extrovert, part wallflower” during her childhood and had a penchant for dressing in masculine clothing and went through goth and punk phases during her teenage years, shaving her head at one point. It was whilst living in Egypt on a gap year, where she was planning on becoming a museum curator, she had her first brush with the film industry. She was asked to be an extra as an American cheerleader in a boxing movie, “I went along and there was an Arabic guy with a megaphone, like something out of a silent film, and it was so hot and so boring that I left.” Despite this upon her return to Australia she moved to Sydney and enrolled in the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) to pursue an acting career graduated in 1992.
Blanchett’s first major stage role was opposite Geoffrey Rush David Mamet play Oleanna for the Sydney Theatre Company. That year, she was cast as Clytemnestra in a production of Sophocles’ Electra. A couple of weeks after rehearsals, the actress playing the title role pulled out, and the director cast Blanchett in the lead role and her performance became one of her most acclaimed at NIDA. In 1993, Blanchett was awarded the Sydney Theatre Critics’ Best Newcomer Award for her performance in Timothy Daly’s Kafka Dances and won also Best Actress for her performance in Mamet’s Oleanna making her the first actor to win both categories in the same year.
She made her feature film debut in 1997 in Paradise Road and after working solidly for a decade surprised many when with her husband, playwright and screenwriter Andrew Upton, moved back to their native Australia to take over as joint artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company between 2008 and 2013 putting on 16-19 shows a year. ‘There were a lot of people who I could tell were thinking, “You’re in your late 30s, and the film industry’s not going to be your friend forever. Is this really the time?” They thought I was having some sort of early midlife crisis.”
Behind the cool exterior Blanchett admits that, “I used to be very socially awkward. [I’d} Walk into a room. [And] Not know what to say. At some point I realised: that is the act. It’s not whether you can act or not. It’s whether you can act comfortable and relaxed. ‘I’m not comfortable. I’m not relaxed. It’s all down to acting.’ According to the director of Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur, “Cate is willing to throw herself into a chaotic state out of which something will arise,” admiring her “ability to be both vulnerable and totally ruthless. Cate’s absolute ruthlessness is with herself, an obsessive ruthlessness about her craft.” Stage director Jonathan Kent seemingly agrees, “There’s something tightly wound inside her, something hidden, an uncontrolled core that she’s not entirely in charge of, which, when it’s harnessed, makes her riveting.”
Truth was deemed well worth the wait with almost 60% of marked feedback forms giving the film 5/5. ‘Outstanding’, ‘Gripping’, ‘Mesmerising’ and ‘Knew nothing about this but… Wow’ were amongst some of the replies offered. A ‘Slow start’ was mentioned but the ‘Outstanding performances and great story’ won out in the end despite a couple of reservations, it ‘Could have done without some of the Americanised sentimentality’ according to one viewer whilst another felt the film was ‘Important [it was] too targetted at US audiences’.
Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford earned many plaudits also for their ‘Convincing’ and ‘ Outstanding performances’. Blanchett was thought ‘Sublime’ and ‘Inspired’ as the ‘Strong story’ provided ‘Food for thought’. The film covered many issues and ‘Made one query politics in general’ and ‘Corruption and partisan bias’. A couple of viewers surmised that ‘The truth is painful’ and ‘The truth will out’ as one writer revealed that they ‘Never did like George W.’
Oh! What a Lovely War – 11th July 2016
Monday 11th July, ODEON Andover, Start time: 8:00pm
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Written by Len Deighton (uncredited) based on the stage musical.
Starring: Maggie Smith, Dirk Bogarde, Phyllis Calvert, Jean Pierre Cassel, John Clements, John Gielgud
‘Funny, emotional, witty, poignant and technically brilliant’ – Variety
‘Breathtaking’ – Roger Ebert
The film is based on the stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War! which in itself originated from a radio play, The Long, Long Trail, which was broadcast in December 1961 and produced and written by Charles Chilton. It told the story of the First World War through the stories of and the songs sung by soldiers and was inspired by Chilton’s personal quest to learn about his father, who was killed in 1918 aged 19 and whom he’d never met.
Researching song book collections such as Tommy’s Tunes and from former soldiers he met in pubs around St Pancras he was delighted in what he found. The songs bordered on anarchy as they mixed irony, wit, joy, despair in amongst some familiar tunes as they sung about missing home, complaints about their sergeants and officers and the awful conditions they were living in.
Hailed as ‘the most influential radio programme ever’ the original recordings weren’t kept by the BBC but Chilton kept a personal copy and donated it to the British Library.
The documentary formed the basis for the stage show which premiered in 1963. Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop adapted the musical with Chilton but apparently Littlewood didn’t initially want to use the songs, just the story line. When the original poster was printed for the show it didn’t have her name on it but after the reviews came in she had it immediately reprinted with it on.
Although not on the credits it was the novelist Len Deighton who both wrote and produced the film. Although keeping much of the original material in he rejected the Pierrot costumes that the stage show used and introduced the Smith family. He considered setting it in a circus, or as a pantomime or magic show but finally decided to represent the war by means of a seaside pier using Brighton Pier as the centrepiece. He had many people come up to him pitching for the role of director including Gene Kelly but it went of course to Richard Attenborough who had starred in Only When I Larf, a heist comedy based on a Deighton novel, and had said to him that his acting days were over and he needed a new career.
It seems though the experience was a bittersweet one. Although the film was released to acclaim there had been tension behind the scenes. Like the original radio programme Deighton’s intention was to pay tribute to his father who had been gassed and severely wounded during the war. He saw the movie as ‘being about soldiers with mud up to their waist [whilst] remaining humourous and stoic,’ and it was once the film finished the arguments began. ‘Arguing over credits seemed like a disservice to everything the movie was trying to portray’, he wrote. ‘Although no sacrifice was made, the people who actually did the work on the movie were like these troops. The others who sought credit and recognition for work they hadn’t done were the antithesis of what I admired about my father and his brothers in arms.’
The response was positive from our comment forms for Oh! What a Lovely War. It was branded an ‘Extraordinary!!’ and ‘Stunning’ film by the audience it was also thought a ‘Well timed showing after the 100 year Anniversary of the Somme.’ The film had ‘A unique viewpoint on the WW1 conflict’ was for one member ‘One of the most emotional films I’ve seen for a long time’. There were ‘Many parallels with Blair and Iraq today’ thought another.
There was one comment that it was ‘Too long’ and also a cautious response from a member who wrote that they were ‘Born to close to that war to appreciate this film’ but for others though it was ‘Thought provoking’ and was ‘Full of contrasts and symbolism’ and ‘Captured the futility’ as ‘So many young men lost their lives.’
‘NO MORE WAR!’ was probably the most emphatic comment received.